|This is me at almost 18. Frocked up for my High School graduation
I thought I was fat and hideous – a waste of energy
Punch myself in the face or shake my hand? That is the question “Dr. Harry” of BBC’s “Silent Witness” asked “Dr. Nicky,” and I thought it was a terrific question. If I met my 19 year old self, I’d just want to give her a very very big hug and say everything is going to be OK and your life will be amazing. I’d say I know you’re feeling angry and confused, I know you’re finding it hard to work out where you fit in the world since your family unit self-destructed, and I know you’re really struggling with self acceptance, but I can promise you one thing – it’s all going to be AMAZING, but you’ve got a few more confusing years ahead of you before you work that out.
Then I’d grab both of her shoulders, look her squarely in the eyes and say: But I’m not going to tell you anything else specific about your future, because it is the decisions you make today, the people you meet today, and the experiences you have today that are going to lead you on a wild and wonderful adventure, where you live in multiple countries, visit the world’s most amazing cities, and your feet will walk the Wonders of the World. She’ll like that. Then I’d say it’s all good, and besides, if I gave you any advice, you’d tell me to piss off anyway, because you’re a stubborn bloody bitch who takes your own counsel very seriously – and for good reason. While many in your life will tell you this is not a good quality, and some will even resent you for it, it will always serve you well. But do pay attention to the teachers along the way – they come in many forms those life teachers.
The only way your strength and self belief is detrimental is that people don’t always see when you need a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes you will find this extremely challenging to deal with, because all you’ll want is for your friends to “see” you, but you don’t know how to ask for help, so be gentle on those who don’t see it. They really don’t grasp your anguish because you are very good at hiding it – your future husband will get it, don’t you worry. But if you want help, learn how to ask for it – there’s no weakness in that and your friends will appreciate it more than you know.
Then I’d tell her that she has some pretty strong opinions on things right now, but life will provide her with a lot of experiences, and many of the ideas she is fixed on now will change significantly. If I told her what some of the opinions she’d change were, she would say NEVER, but I know it to be true.
I’d tell her to learn how to live in the moment and get to work on quieting her mind now – something she will never find easy to do – suggesting maybe she looks into meditation at this time in her life, rather than much much later. I’d tell her to let go of any bullshit in her life quickly, and when people take too much from her, to let them go too. But at the same time to never resist accepting the diversity of people in her life, because that is where she will find the most joy. When she gets to her 40s, she will feel extremely blessed by the vast community of very different and wonderful people who have touched her life and remain in it – mostly from afar – to this day. This will be her greatest sense of achievement – the relationships she’s built with people and the deep understanding of life she has gained from this. Right now I’ll tell her it’s her openness to people and experiences that will be her greatest gift to herself. So always be open, put yourself out there (even when it’s scary to do so) and always expect the unexpected.
I’d tell her she would have some very lonely times ahead, and while she is in the middle of these times – sometimes close to despair – that she shouldn’t worry. Everything comes good in the end. I’d tell her these times – especially when she is travelling alone for months at a time to far flung places in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and the Americas – are the best investment she can ever make in her own personal growth, even if it’s not particularly pleasant at the time. It is these experiences more than any other, where she will face herself, question everything she’s ever heard or known, and expose herself to deep introspection, and as a result, she will grow the most. She’ll learn that judgement of others is never welcome because none of us can ever know anyone else’s story, and she’ll shake off a lot of the bullshit that will no longer serve her or be relevant to who she is.
She’ll enjoy this chat. It will give her a lot of hope. It will help her to keep her convictions even when others are trying to bring her down, and it will make her excited – because right now, all she wants to do is get out and travel this big wide world.
The only specific event I’d talk about is this: just before Christmas 1994, when she visits her lifelong friend Emma, and her baby girl Ruby, I’d tell her to make sure she gives Emma a very very big hug when she says goodbye. I won’t tell her that this is the last time she’ll see Emma – as she dies in a motorcycle accident a few days later – because it will be a grief too big to bare in advance. However Emma’s death will be one of her greatest life lessons – and it is to never ever waste life on regrets. She’ll ponder this concept deeply while sitting high in the Himalaya’s on a glorious warm day a few months after Emma’s funeral, knowing that she’ll always miss her friend, but grateful she had her in her life for so long.
Oh there’s so much more I can tell her, but one more thing I’d have to say is to stop with the self hatred bullshit. She won’t listen to me, but maybe it will bring the subject into her awareness earlier so she doesn’t waste as much useless emotional energy on what is absolute bollocks.
I think that’s what I’d tell my 19 year old me…. well it’s a start anyway. If you met your 19 year old self, what would you do or say? I am very curious…
Yours, without the bollocks